Once upon a time, a Russian peasant went to visit Moscow, the big city. He arrived at its fanciest hotel. His boots were covered with mud, his clothing was torn, and his appearance was dishevelled. Despite all this, the clerk at the hotel smiled at him. He gave the peasant a key to his room, the highest and most elegant room in the hotel. The peasant began walking up the hotel’s beautiful winding staircase.
When he arrived at the first floor, he walked right in front of a full-length mirror. He had never seen a mirror before, and he was terrified because it contained a beastly image staring back at him. He growled and shouted at the beast but found it did the same right back to him. He screamed and ran up the next set of stairs. On the second floor, he ran into the beast again. He screamed, and the beast screamed back at him. Once again he ran up the stairs, to the third floor. The beast stared right back at him. They exchanged insults and stood toe to toe.
Realizing he could not escape, the peasant ran back down to the lobby. He went back to the clerk at the desk. He told the clerk about the beast stalking him. The clerk quickly realized the man was seeing his own reflection in the mirror. Rather than embarrass or shame him, the clerk told the peasant that the strange-looking man was there to protect the hotel’s guests.
“Here’s the trick,” the clerk says. “If you make an angry face at him, he will do the same to you. But if you greet him with a smile and kind words, he will do the same to you.” The peasant thanked the clerk and went up to his room. He had no more terrifying stops.
Source: Evan Moffic
The Happiness Prayer: Ancient Jewish Wisdom for the Best Way to Live Today
Center Street, 2017
The clerk could have responded differently. He could have taken advantage of the peasant’s vulnerability and ignorance. He could have laughed at him. He could have called him names. He could have scolded him or showed him the way out. But for this clerk, another person’s humanity was more important than a smug sense of superiority. Another person’s need gave the clerk an opportunity for kindness.
Remember: Life is like an echo. Whatever energies you send out, they will be echoed back to you. What you give away is what you will receive. Or as scripture says:
- “The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” —2 Corinthians 9:6
- “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.” —Galatians 6:7